The First Evening
After leaving Page, we headed south to Flagstaff for some restocking before moving up the hill to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. We figured to stay for a day or two in order to take advantage of the improved food shopping and better WiFi at our chosen RV park. There are a couple of natural areas we wanted to explore as well. Our stay became a bit more extended due to some unexpected weather that moved in from So. California and Mexico. What was supposed to be a chance of occasional thunderstorms turned into a full day of severe thunderstorms, egg sized hail and tornados. We were just about to leave the RV Park for the drive up to the canyon when the owner came by and told us about the tornado warnings for the area, and that one was heading our way. He told us he was opening the storm shelter and if the winds suddenly increased, to head up as quickly as possible. We decided to stay put in the camp and put off the trip to the canyon till the next day.
As it turned out, no tornados came terribly close to us, although one of the eight in the greater area did come within 15 miles. All we got was some pea sized hail and a little rain. Hardly worth the worry of becoming another trailer park statistic.
I really did want to get up to the park asap. It has been hot with little wind, and the air has not been as clear as I would have liked for a place like the Grand Canyon. The coming storm promised to help change that.The best images are made when visibility is not only far, but truly clear – that is, no haze. Other than mid-winter, after a big storm is really the best time. I wanted to be in the park during the storm so that as it cleared, we would have the best visibilities. It just wasn’t safe to travel on the previous day, and in fact, the road we would have taken was closed for most of the day due to a “blow down” of trees blocking the way.
By morning, the storms had passed and we had a beautifully party sunny day for travel. We got on the road and was in Grand Canyon by lunch. We got a wonderful campground and were greeted by a couple of grazing elk as we arrived. A couple of hours later we ventured out for a short hike along the rim and planned to find a nice spot for sunset. It was cool and breezy and there were still nice clouds from the clearing storm. We caught the shuttle to a starting point about 3 miles from the visitor center and started walking. As sunset neared, we arrived at the main developed area of the park. The lodges and visitor center and gift shops. It was crazy with people. It so amazes me how, even in this most popular park, if you walk just a half mile from the gift shop, you will be nearly alone.
But, as it happened, there we were at sunset. I did manage to find a fine vantage point about 15 minutes before the sun went down. We had walked past several viewpoints that were already clogged with people with the same idea. The spot I found had only one other photographer and a couple of other folks. So we set up and waited. We were not disappointed. The clear air and wonderful clouds really added something special to the canyon as the sun lowered and the light warmed. We stayed well past sunset and waited for the sun to light the undersides of the clouds. It was truly special. I was so engrossed with the display I never realized how many people had gathered to enjoy the sight. When I turned around, I was amazed.
Day 2 and Beyond
I don’t know, there really isn’t a lot to write about in regard to photographing the South Rim. Over the next three days, we shuttled and hiked and drove the rim. Each day saw the air grow progressively more hazy. We got early starts most mornings to find likely sunrise spots, and that was nice. We pretty much passed on sunsets after the first night. The cloudless skies and resulting harsher light made photography less effective. I found that the better images I made during this time were actually taken closer to mid-day when deep shadows and haze were less evident. Some might say that mid-day photography would result in washed out colors, but for this place, I think I prefer the more subdued look. I came away with some nice images from working this way. Most work I see from the Grand Canyon is too saturated and garish. A lighter touch seems a bit fresher to me.
To finish off our stay on the rim, Mary and I decided that dinner at the lodge restaurant to belatedly celebrate my 56th birthday was in order. On my actual birthday, we were in the town of Hatch – not much there really. So we waited until we were somewhere nicer. This really worked out well. We got a 5 o’clock reservation (the only time before 8 pm available), which turned out really nice. Sunset is at 6 pm this time of year, and we were seated at a window facing the canyon. We dined well, had a really good bottle of wine and enjoyed the soft light of sunset. A great ending to our stay.